Barcelona: Everything Gaudi

Travel Blog By J
October 2011

After Paris, our next stop was Barcelona.  I've heard many good things about this city.  Well, more good things that what I've heard about busier Madrid, so I was excited to see Barcelona for the first time.  Never mind that we got lost getting to our apartment from the airport (but more on that later).

So my first impressions--   Clean.  Orderly.  Alive.  A vibrant, artistically rich city with architectural masterpieces in every corner to astound you.  To me, this is the place that Gaudi built. This city celebrates the genius of its famous son, Antoni Gaudi, whose distinctive style is showcased and preserved for life in the Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, Casa Batllo and La Pedrera -- just some of the popular attractions in Barcelona.

A comfortable way of seeing Barcelona's top attractions is to take Barcelona Turistic's hop-on hop-off tour.  We bought a 2-day pass for 30 euros.  The ticket is valid for three different routes (red, blue and green) and you can ride the bus as many times as you wish.  The bus provides audio-commentary in many languages.  We took the bus from Placa de Catalunya and followed the red and blue lines.

Here are my favorite stops:

Sagrada Familia
Gaudi's most famous structure is still a work in progress, relying on the donations and funding it gets from the public. There was scaffolding in some parts of the cathedral; some bricks are dark with age, while others are visibly new and white. The construction still follows the original design of Gaudi.  The Sagrada Familia's website says that when the church is finished, it will have 18 towers:  12 dedicated to the apostles, 4 to the evangelists, one to Jesus and another to Mary.

Entrance to the church is 12 euros.

Gaudi used fruits on top of these towers

Parc Guell
This park on a hill was again designed by Antoni Gaudi.  It was meant to be a pleasure park, where people can get a respite from the bustling city.  Quite ironic that today, the park is packed with tourists and vendors that you'd find a hard time finding a quiet place to sit.  The attractions here range from quirky to the avant garde.   Gaudi's trademark serpentine benches and mosaic art can be seen here.

Entrance to the park is free.

park entrance

mosaic-tile serpentine benches

Casa Mila or La Pedrera
Another notable work of Gaudi.  He was commissioned by a wealthy couple to do this building.  Very noticeable here are the curved balconies.

La Pedrera

Casa Batllo
This is another house that was restored by Antoni Gaudi for a middle-class family.  The facade of the building is remarkable, with skeleton bones for window bars,  a mosaic of multi-colored ceramic tiles and irregularly-shaped  windows.

Entrance fee is 18,50 euros.

Casa Batllo's colorful facade

Camp Nou
All football aficionados must stop here --- the home of FC Barcelona!  There is huge FC shop here that sells all football merchandise.

Placa d' Espanya
Plaza d' Espanya is one of Barcelona's biggest squares that connect to Palau Nacional and Fira de Barcelona.  In the center is a fountain designed by a collaborator of Gaudi.  This stop is particularly special to me--- as our apartment is just 3 blocks away :)

Stopping here would give you views of the city below.  You can also catch the cable car here which will get you to the Old Port.

view from Montjuic Hill

Museo Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC)
My favorite stop because of the views!  We didn't go inside the museum anymore but just walked on the museum grounds.

The MNAC as viewed from Placa d'Espanya

view of the city from MNAC

Olympic Village
This is the home of the 1992 Olympics.  Near this is the Montjuic's Communication Tower.

Montjuic's Communication Tower

Barri Gotic  (Gothic Quarter)
Our landlady recommended to "get lost" in the Barri Gotic.  True enough, one can get lost here as there are so many alleys that open up to squares, and there are many shops and important buildings to see in this area.  Many of the buildings here date back from Medieval times.  This is a nice area to explore during the day or night (although I would think that it might be harder to get your bearings in the dark!)

old stone walls border this narrow pathway

a nice red building with a colorful facade in the Gothic Quarter

There is a total of 45 bus stops.  Naturally, we didn't get to see everything is just two days but we did cover a lot of ground.  The rest of time was spent enjoying the tapas bars, searching for the best paella and shopping in Placa de Catalunya and La Rambla :)

Now, for some tips while you're in Barcelona:

T-10 ticket
* From Barcelona (BCN) Airport, the cheapest way to get to town is via the Aerobus.   A one-way ticket costs 5,30 euros; a return ticket is 9,15 euros.  The travel time is about 35 minutes.   Once on the bus, make sure that you press the "stop button" located on the handle bars to indicate your stop.  We didn't know we had to do this and we didn't see other people doing so.  The bus was packed.  We assumed that the bus will stop at every stop indicated in the route, but no!  We got off about 3 blocks down from where we were supposed to go!

* Buy a T-10 metro ticket (a pack of 10 journeys that can be used by a group) if you plan to use the metro for several days.  It is cheaper at  8,25 euros for 10 journeys.  The T-10 is valid for all metro, bus and RENFE.

* There is free wi-fi in most plazas like Placa de Catalunya.

* Dine inside the restaurant or out in the terrace?  If price matters to you, dine inside as some restaurants levy a 15% surcharge if you dine al fresco.  I saw this information in (very) fine print at the bottom of a menu.

* Of course you've heard of the Spanish siesta.  Most businesses close between 2pm-5pm except for some stores located in the tourist areas like La Rambla.  During this time, people rest or take a rather long lunch.  Bars and restaurants are usually closed between 4pm-8pm. 

* When in Barcelona, enjoy some tapas, wine, iberico ham and good ol' paella!  :)

*All photos are Skycab's own.